• Costa Rica
1 to 12 weeks

Program Details

Year Round
Small Group (1-15) Medium Group (16-30)
Travel Type
Family Older Travelers Solo Women


What's Included
Accommodation Activities Airport Transfers Meals Transportation
What's Not Included
Airfare Travel Insurance Visa
Nov 02, 2023
Jun 23, 2023
47 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

With almost six percent of the world's biodiversity in Costa Rica, it’s a country teeming with various species and ecosystems. Opportunities range from species specific projects and wildlife conservation to various community development programs.

All GVI programs ensure that you will be contributing towards sustainable objectives that have been carefully aligned with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and support the protection of Costa Rican ecology and the empowerment of local communities.

This allows you to experience the abounding nature of the country, like trekking through the densely populated rainforests, summiting some of the countries most scenic volcanic formations, relaxing on an idyllic beach shore, or going on zip-lining and kayaking adventures in your free time.

Video and Photos

Program Highlights

  • Build on and improve your skills in marine and wildlife conservation, community development, education, and language acquisition.
  • Learn about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and contribute towards long-term objectives.
  • Become a global citizen as you immerse in and better understand different cultures, traditions, customs, and ethnic cuisines.
  • Live and travel in Costa Rica, connecting with the local community and other international volunteers.
  • Improve your future employment opportunities, with hands on practical experiences and a larger database of knowledge.

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Join volunteers in Costa Rica's Cartago Province for childhood development. Enhance English and life skills while enjoying stunning landscapes. Empower local communities and yourself through education and play activities. Experience Costa Rica's beauty while making a lasting impact.

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Join the adventure in Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve, exploring rainforest species and supporting Costa Rica's habitat preservation. Master species identification and data input. Dive into sea turtle and bird projects, showcasing your commitment to growth and global impact.

Turtle swimming in Costa Rica

Explore the hidden Kekoldi Indigenous Territory in Costa Rica's Limon province, accessible only to researchers and conservationists. Join night patrols to monitor nesting sea turtles, assist researchers and collect vital data. Engage in diverse conservation surveys amidst the rich rainforest.

Program Reviews

4.75 Rating
based on 55 reviews
  • 5 rating 83.64%
  • 4 rating 10.91%
  • 3 rating 1.82%
  • 2 rating 3.64%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Impact 4.55
  • Support 4.65
  • Fun 4.65
  • Value 4.55
  • Safety 4.7
Showing 1 - 8 of 55 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience

I participated in the Bird Research program in Kéköldi (Costa Rica) for a month and had a wonderful time. I would definitely do another GVI program in the future.

What went well:
- The staff on base are all extremely knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. They were a real inspiration to be around and I learnt so much from them. As well as being enthusiastic and professional, they are also really lovely and supportive people.
- Pre-departure support is really good - you get a lot of useful information and a packing list. You also get a support coordinator who is there to answer questions before you travel.
- The base is situated in the heart of the rainforest - you're up close to nature and it's really peaceful (photo attached). You share the base with a Bribri family who were all so welcoming despite my lack of Spanish! There is also a library so you can read up on different species during your downtime.
- As well as conducting surveys, there was a well-run program of talks throughout my time there. Talks were given by interns, volunteers and staff and I learnt about wildlife photography, big cats, deforestation, snakes, moths & butterflies. I had the opportunity to do a presentation of my own - this was a fun project and a good way to gain a deeper knowledge of my chosen species.
- Most participants came from conservation backgrounds which was nice to see. Everyone was passionate about animals and the environment.

What could be improved:
- The only reason I am not giving 5 stars is because the GVI marketing team need to be more joined up with staff on the ground. As of 23/06/2023 there are still references to jaguars on the GVI website - this is only applicable to the old site in Jalova as there are no jaguars in Kéköldi (but there is an ocelot!) My recommendation to the marketing team is to get staff on base to proof-read your marketing copy to make sure it's accurate and not misleading.

My advice to prospective participants:
- Speak to alumni so you get a good idea of the program and life on base, or have a look at the program's Instagram page (if there is one)
- Make sure you are fit - there is a lot of hiking in 30C heat!

  • Proximity to nature - saw toucans, sloths, and monkeys from base!
  • Wonderful staff on base and great pre-departure support
  • Learnt a lot, gained a deeper appreciation of nature, made new friends and lots of fond memories
  • Marketing materials created the wrong impression (see review)
237 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hi K!

Thank you for this in-depth review! Thank you for your feedback as well, it is noted. Your experience sounds amazing. It's great to hear you felt supported from the start of our journey with us and that you learned so much from the staff. I'm also glad you were able to connect with the local family and had fun participating in the various activities!

All the best,
Tiffany (GVI Outreach Team)

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Reptile and Amphibian Diversity

I got to live in the rainforest for a month volunteering with GVI in Kekoldi, Costa Rica. Everyday we could see various exotic birds just from the base. Toucans were more common to see than pigeons in the city. We surveyed different trails in the rainforest (during the day and night), listening to bird calls and looking for specific physical traits and behaviors of the species encountered to identify and record them. Getting to see these creatures in their natural habitat was such a gift. Nothing could compare to the feeling of joy and excitement when I encountered a Red-Eyed Tree Frog for the first time on a night survey. Overall it was the experience of a lifetime. I definitely plan on volunteering with GVI again someday.

  • You will make a lot of new friends.
  • You will get to see a lot of amazing sights.
  • You learn a lot about the wildlife native to the area and encounter various exotic species.
257 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hi Scott!

Thank you for your review! Your experience sounds magical. That's amazing you encountered a Red-Eyed Tree Frog! I hope that you join us again in the future.

Tiffany (GVI Outreach Team)

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

My 3rd time volunteering with GVI and it was awesome!

I've volunteered with GVI 3 separate times now, and each trip has been a fantastic experience! I most recently volunteered with GVI Kekoldi in Costa Rica for 2 weeks on their turtle programme. The base team are amazing at bringing you up to speed when you arrive with lots of training and then supporting you as you get to grips with the surveys in the field. All the other volunteers are always amazing and it's so great to meet other likeminded people from around the world. The GVI main office team provide you with lots of information before you go on what to expect and pack and are super helpful if you have any questions.

A little bit more about the Kekoldi base: 4 days a week the turtle volunteers support Cahuita Turtle Rescue (a local organisation of some of the most inspirational people I've ever met) with night surveys, protecting eggs from poachers, and supporting efforts to protect the local leatherback sea turtle population. For the other 2 days of the week, the volunteers get involved with the jungle based biodiversity surveys involving bird, amphibian and reptile surveys. It's great to be able to experience both types of survey that the base offers as they're very different!

The programmes GVI offer are a fantastic way to travel and experience a country in a completely different way to normal. I would have loved to spend more time on the Costa Rica programme and can't recommend the experience more highly!

  • The richness of biodiversity you will see is incredible!
  • Complete immersion into life in the jungle
  • Real impact!
  • Come prepared for the heat!
258 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hi Alex!

Thank you for a lovely review. I think it's amazing that you've already completed three programs and thank you for always coming back to us! I'm so glad that you had such an engaging experience and I hope you come back to spend more time in Costa Rica.

All the best,
Tiffany (GVI Outreach Team)

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Once in a lifetime experience

I recently spent four weeks volunteering with GVI in Cahuita, Costa Rica. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. After only four weeks I had completely fallen in love with the staff, the other volunteers, and the work we were doing in Cahuita National Park.

We spent most of our days conducting surveys in Cahuita National Park. The surveys contributed to Cahuita National Park's conservation efforts. While on a survey, it was common to see sloths, raccoons, eyelash palm vipers, monkeys, and a few different species of frogs and lizards.

For the birders out there, we conducted several surveys solely dedicated to research on the birds in Cahuita National Park. I saw violaceous and slaty-tailed trogons, keel-billed toucans, white-collared manakins, montezuma oropendolas, and countless other bird species on a regular basis.
We also had the opportunity to watch the migration of several migratory bird species, such as the osprey, turkey vulture and swaisons hawk, from a bird tower in the heart of the Kéköldi Indigenous Reserve. From the top of the bird tower you have a beautiful view of the ocean, the surrounding forest, and the birds flying overhead. We were able to watch the birds fly right above us and help Kéköldi hawkwatch count the migrating birds.

On the weekends, myself, and the other volunteers spent our time exploring Cahuita and neighboring places. We visited the Jaguar Rescue Center in Limón. We went snorkeling at Punta Cahuita. We went shopping and visited the white sand beaches in Puerto Viejo.

Volunteering with GVI in Cahuita, Costa Rica is the ideal opportunity for any animal lover interested in studying and protecting the incredible wildlife in Costa Rica. And, in addition, to being an amazing experience, volunteering with GVI is a worthwhile way to jumpstart a career in conservation. Those looking for a meaningful way to spend a gap year or semester; those who are considering a career in conservation, or those who are simply interested in doing a little bit of good while living on the coast in one of the most picturesque countries in the world, should check out this program.

354 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hi Zoe!

Thank you for your wonderful review! I'm so happy you had such a valuable experience in Cahuita and that you were able to explore neighboring areas in your free time. Thank you again for the impact you made during this program, we hope to see you back in the future!

Tiffany (GVI Outreach Team)

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteer Costa Rica

Never felt the intensity like that going to another country by myself and feeling secure soon as I met up with Gvi and from there on was amazing. With that being said my time on base was amazing no phones so basically you and your group socializing and getting to know about other cultures. Being on surveys I always knew I’d see something and maybe you don’t but being out there all you can do is believe you will. On the way to base the first thing we saw was a jaguar track and that let me know I’m in for a crazy experience that I can’t live down

  • Friends
  • Experience
371 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hey Devin - thanks for your beautiful review!

Amazing news to hear that you had such an unforgettable, action-packed, and soul-enriching time with us at GVI. I am thrilled to hear that you enjoyed your time with us as much as you did. Your hard work and efforts have certainly impacted this project in a meaningful way. Please do keep on spreading your love for GVI. We look forward to welcoming you back on base (with open arms) and continuing to make an impact.

Kajsa (UK Outreach)

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A trip to go back to

Have you ever tried to just focus on one thing at a time. No distraction. No influence. My experience with GVI was a bit like that, you see I could fully immerse myself with wildlife, from the moment I woke up right to patrol at night counting turtle eggs. The staff was also brilliant, not only were they a crucial part to my leaning because of their experience mixed with knowledge but they were always positive. I think that was very important because it allowed a safe environment to learn but also a good place to be interactive with both staff and other volunteers. I've enjoyed my stay so much that even though I've been back from this experience for a few days I'm planning to return next year! If I could give two pieces of advice to anyone going is that A) you should really consider to do 4 weeks+ this is because you start having all the opportunities but as soon as you get used to it you leave. B) bring an outfit in a ziplock bag for your flight home because your clothes will smell of Jalova. but just to recap, it's one of the best experience you can get not only to work on conservation but also yourself

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I think my first day, I went out on surveys ( I arrived 2 days late). And I had no clue what they were saying; but in my 4 weeks there I started to understand what they were saying and even teaching the new group that came along.
388 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Tea, thanks for your review! I'm so happy to hear you had such a great experience with us. We welcome you back to base again sometime in the future. In the meantime, please do keep on spreading your GVI love!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Tropical wildlife

I've spent two month in Jalova scientific base in Costa Rica. It is located in Tortuguero National Park, in the middle of the rainforest just next to the Caribbean sea. It's been a wonderful experience, both social and scientifically enriching. I've loved my trip here and it taught me a lot about local species, biodiversity conservation and more specifically about jaguars, especially jaguar behavioring here in TNC, sea turtles and also birds. Everyday, we could learn something new or see species that we've never seen before as, around base, biodiversity is incredible and really unique.
Moreover, life on base was very basic. For example, we took water from a well and at night we were using torches; nevertheless it was such a good experience to live like this and we didn't feel like missing something, just adapting to live in the middle of the jungle without a lot of electricity and mosquitos instead.
People around here are really nice and friendly as well, and most of all very open minded which helps making your trip even better and enriching.
Finally, it was worth the trip to see all these different species of animals such as amphibians, reptiles, mammals, bugs and a lot of birds. I was impressed by the staff's knowledge about that and learned a lot in the field.
Finally, we could enjoy our free time by relaxing on the beach, reading a book, cooking for everybody, gardening, going birding in the coco plantation next to base or even building a new ping pong area at the time I was on base which was a really good experience too.
All volunteers feel involved in the conservation programs on base and all of our activities were important for the data, so I would say that volunteering in Jalova is really worth it.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't forget insect repellant and be aware of mosquitos, ants, spiders and others kind bugs bites ! They will bjte you anyway !
406 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hey Emma, thanks for your review! I'm thrilled to hear you had such a positive experience with us and enjoyed your time on base as much as you did. We'd love to have you back on base sometime soon!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

What are you waiting for?? Book with GVI now!!

GVI is an incredible company! From start to finish you are supported by the wonderful team and as soon as you touch down on location you are treated as though you are extended family. In terms of the volunteer and intern programmes, there is an amazing variety of programmes to choose from whatever you interests and focuses are and not only do you get the most incredible experiences and memories but you are also making a positive impact to the local community so it’s a win win all round.

My first experience with GVI was backed in 2014 when I was a free 18 year old looking for a new experience with a great impact on the local community. The moment I booked the programme I was giving all the details and information needed to make sure I felt happy and organised before I departed. On touch down I was greeted and picked up by a member of the GVI staff, he was friendly and welcoming and made me feel at ease within seconds. During my time at the base we became on big family, we shared so many amazing experiences together from being together in schools, meeting incredible teachers and children and participating in school events (we did a dance performance together and helped each class create their dances as well). Outside of volunteering we had ample time to explore all that Costa Rica has to offer. I think I came back with over 3000 photos and videos of my time away and so many memories that still make my tummy hurt from laughing at them. My one recommendation when going away is to throw yourself into everything and anything, I promise you won't regret it! I was so sad when the time came for me to leave, and if I didn't have other plans set in motion I was of 100% asked to extend my time.

I am fortunate enough to be going away again with GVI again as an intern this time around and I look forward to many more trips and seeing what happens in the future as well.

So….what are you waiting for?! Go book now you won’t regret it!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If I could give one piece of advice for anyone going away, then it would be to throw yourself into anything and everything that comes your way and embrace the local community as if you lived there. You will have some unforgettable experiences both whilst on project and in your spare time as well.
399 people found this review helpful.
Response from GVI

Hey Sophie, thanks for your great review! I am thrilled to hear that you enjoyed your time with us as much as you did. Your hard work and efforts have certainly impacted this project in a meaningful way. Please do keep on spreading your love for GVI. And obviously, we would love to see you back on base soon!

Questions & Answers